On the Radio!

Hello, listeners in radio land! For the release of my new book ANIMAL ZOMBIES!…AND OTHER REAL-LIFE MONSTERS, my publicist from National Geographic Kids arranged a 16-city radio media tour in cities including Bend, OR, Fargo, ND, Los Angeles, Dallas, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis. It didn’t matter that some of these were small towns. I was petrified. I’d never been on the radio before and public speaking makes me sweat. But I decided to face my fears and give it a try. NatGeoKids also provided some media training, which was extremely helpful. Here’s what I learned from the experience and some tips that I hope are helpful not only for radio interviews but also for any type of book promo:

    1. Just do it! We can never really know what moves the needle when it comes to book sales. When a new opportunity arises, we have nothing to lose and everything to gain. For radio, no travel was involved. All I needed was a landline and time. I spent two Wednesdays on the phone doing back-to-back 15-minute interviews. (Because ANIMAL ZOMBIES has a monster hook, we scheduled the interviews around Halloween.) The publicist made all of the arrangements in advance. All I had to do was call in. An operator gave me prompts each time we were about to go on the air.
      Now back up a sec. Don’t have a publicist? Why not pitch your book to radio stations on your own? Here’s an article to get you started!
    2. Relax! Be yourself. Don’t feel the need to control the interview. The radio jocks have got this down. They’re helping us with promo & we’re helping them fill the airwaves. The questions will be fairly straightforward: What inspired you to write this book? Where do your ideas come from? What’s your favorite chapter/creature/character? Where can people buy your book? What’s coming next?
    3. Breathe! When I saw the list of cities I nearly fell over. How could I speak to a LIVE audience of 3 million listeners in Los Angeles? What if I get tongue tied? One trick is to know that you’re simply having a conversation with one person on the other end of the line–not thousands of listeners. Another tip is to know that if you goof, … so what? There will be other interviews. Everyone messes up sometimes. Shake it off and move on. (Also, some of my interviews were taped. If that’s the case, when the interview ends, you can ask the interviewer to edit out the mistake. They might agree!)
    4. Prepare! Write down a list of possible questions. Then pull out two or three key messages you want to relay. Write them down and keep them in front of you during the interview. If you need to cite statistics (like the fact that humans kill millions of sharks each year, while sharks kill five humans on average & not the other way around), make sure you have them ready.
    5. Practice makes better! Talk to yourself in the shower or in the car (or pretend you’re on the phone when talking to yourself in public). Ask your friends and family to throw some questions at you. For example, a friend asked me what inspired me to write about monsters in nature. By talking to myself, I realized there was much more to it than collecting a bunch of creepy science articles in a file. Why DID I write such a chilling book? My fascination with nature goes way back to my childhood, which brings me to…
    6. Make it personal! Don’t be afraid to share personal stories. Offer tidbits that the audience will connect with & will make your interview much more memorable. I shared stories about going on “swamp tromps” in the Everglades with my parents and growing up with a turtle skeleton in my closet (an artifact of my father’s days in biology lab), details that might explain my sense of wonder with the natural world.
    7. The book, the book, the book. While it’s ok to get personal, stay on message. The interview isn’t just about you, it’s about your book. So while you’re talking, always make sure to circle back to the book. Try not to veer off track.
    8. Watch out for curve balls. Sometimes it’s the interviewer who veers off course. First you’re talking about the book, next thing you know you’re talking about that trip to the Bahamas. If you feel like you’re way off track, try bridging, the technique of regaining control of the interview and staying on message. Bridging is a way of pivoting, a gentle way of turning the question back to your subject. Phrases you might use are:
      * The important thing to remember is…
      * Let me put this in context…
      * Funny you mentioned that…
      * If we look at the big picture…
      * While that’s important, it’s also important to…
      * I’m not sure about that, but what I’d love for you to know is…
      My interviews went pretty smoothly. One time I felt the need to bridge when an interviewer asked which critter in the book I would want as a pet. Instead of saying, “A pet?! Did you read the book? Would I want a lamprey, hagfish or wolf as a pet?” I simply laughed and said, “I’m not sure I’d want any of these creatures as pets, but I will say that I’ve gained a lot of respect for them because…” And we were back on track.
    9. Assorted little expert tricks:
      • ​​Repeat the name of your book so it sticks in listeners’ minds long enough for them to pull over and order your book. (Many of my interviewers did this too!)
      • Mention that your book is already on shelves and share where it’s available. (I made sure to mention indie booksellers and public libraries.)
      • Try not to talk about competing publishers (I made that mistake in a practice interview.) It’s ok to mention what book is coming next but try to stay focused on the current book.
    10. 10. Have fun! These opportunities don’t come around often. Chill out and enjoy your 15 minutes of fame!

Listen to some of my radio interviews herehere, and here!

How’d I do? Comment below and share this post for a chance to win a signed copy of ANIMAL ZOMBIES! (U.S. only). Drawing at the stroke of midnight on Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018.

Winner of the Sydney Taylor Book Award and a Robert F. Sibert Honor Book

Liberty two boys